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How to Write an NIH Grant Application


The culmination of months of work is distilled into your NIH grant application--that bundle of paper that quickly becomes your sole focus and takes over your entire world. But the National Institutes of Health is the largest funder of academic research in the U.S., and so to NIH officials, YOUR precious package is only one of over 40,000 applications they receive every year--a single fish in a school of thousands.

Given the competition, you really can't let silly mistakes ruin your chances. To be successful, every "i" must be dotted, every "t" crossed. And you must understand and follow every instruction to make sure you're on track for funding. The following links will take you to a few of NIH's resources that can help you better prepare, write, and understand this funding agency's grants process.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's (NCCAM's) Quick Guide for the Preparation of Grant Applications provides a short description of the review mechanism at NCCAM. This is followed by information on how to plan and prepare your grant application.

Strengthening Your Grant Application: A Review Perspective from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) includes a great table of common mistakes that crop up during each part of a grant application. Believe it or not, the list includes pearls such as "Incorrect spelling of your name!" Also included are tips on how to avoid making errors and advice on how to fulfil the requirements of instructions.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences' Tips for New Grant Applicants is a brief but useful reminder of key points that should be followed when preparing and writing your grant application.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides A Short Guide to the Preparation of NIH Grant Applications, which includes a thorough explanation of each section of a grant application, with numbered and bulleted points to keep you on your toes. An excellent resource that all applicants should read, print out, and stick to their wall while preparing their own application.

The NCI also offers A Grant Writing Program for NCI Investigators Using the PHS 398 Grant Application. This is a helpful breakdown of common mistakes made during the composition of PHS 398 grant applications (used by the majority of NIH grant applicants). Each section--from the face page to animal care details--includes a table of mistakes that applicants commonly make when submitting applications to the NCI. A good summary of "grant writing tips" at the end provides more useful information.

The PHS 398 form is also the subject of the National Library of Medicine's Resource Grants: Application and Review. This is another excellent resource that fleshes out in detail all aspects of the PHS 398 application form. It has links to important grant writing publications, as well as an excellent set of appendices that provide examples of what criteria each section of the application should address.

And whether or not you're applying to the NIH for funding, you may want to consult the following articles from the Grants and Grantwriting section of Next Wave's Career Development Center:

Evolution of the Review Process at NIH and NSF.

An Insider's View of the NIH Review Process.

Finally, please don't forget to check out GrantsNet for information, profiles, and trends for hundreds of funding agencies--including the NIH.